Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Springtime “Salade Lyonnaise”

If you like salad…and poached eggs…you have probably sampled a classic Salade Lyonnaise at least once.  For those who might never have had one (and who like the sound of salad with a poached egg), Salade Lyonnaise (sometimes called a Salade Frisée aux Lardons) is a delicious salad comprised of bitter greens (typically dandelion or frisée), chewy chunks of bacon (lardons), and freshly fried garlicky croutons—all tossed with a sharp and tangy vinaigrette (heavy on the shallots and mustard)…and topped with a drippy-yolked poached egg. 

As you dive in, the liquid yolk mingles with the vinaigrette, coating everything with rich, tangy deliciousness.  It is bacon, eggs and toast turned into a salad.  I think it is one of the best salads ever conceived.

I have no idea when I started preparing a springtime riff on this amazing concoction, but I do know the reason:  In the spring my refrigerator always has a big “vase” of asparagus

(if you aren’t storing your asparagus upright, in a container of water, you should be…it lasts much longer this way)…and I love asparagus with eggs (and bacon).  It just seemed to make sense to add some blanched asparagus spears to my springtime bowl of greens, bacon and egg.

Somewhere along the line I started adding toasted walnuts to the salad instead of croutons.  To be honest this was probably a move of convenience.  I tend to eat this salad on evenings when I’m tired.  Toasting and crumbling a few walnuts is easier than cutting and frying croutons…  at least it is to me.  In any case, I love walnuts with asparagus, so it is a switch that pleases my palate.  Although, if frying croutons (you can use the pan in which you fried the bacon) doesn’t seem like extra work to you, then you should do it.  The salad is, I think, delicious either way.

It was my Instagram feed that made me realize that I needed to post the recipe for this salad on my blog.  (I mentioned it in an early blog post, but didn’t include a recipe.)  As I posted the picture of my salad last week on Instagram I had a niggling feeling that I had posted a similar image not too long ago.  As I scrolled back, I saw that a few weeks earlier, I had indeed posted the same salad.  

In the first picture I had included a few roasted potatoes (I must have been especially hungry on that particular night.  The potatoes are a great way to increase the substance of this salad for a larger appetite.)—but it was essentially the same salad.  As I brushed off the thought that my eating habits were a bit boring, it occurred to me that the absence of this salad on my blog was a glaring omission. 

I don’t think that you really need a recipe for this salad—just the idea.  I am of course giving the recipe as I tend to make it, but I encourage you to make it your own.  To help you get started, here are a few pointers:  As I mentioned above, the salad should have a sharp and tangy vinaigrette.  You can make mine…or any classic shallot and Dijon heavy French-style vinaigrette.  As far as the greens go, I rarely have frisée or dandelion on hand.  I almost always have arugula though.  This adds the requisite bitterness to the salad, so I almost always include that.  Otherwise, any perky and beautiful salad green that you find at your farmer’s market should be just fine.  

(Make sure it has been washed, spun dry and chilled for a while so that it will be nice and crisp.)  If you can get 1/2-inch thick slices of bacon from the meat counter at your grocery store—and are thinking ahead (I never am)—by all means do so.  Cut them crosswise in half inch slices and you will have true lardons. Otherwise, just use thick or extra thick sliced bacon and cook so it still has a bit of chew.  And of course...make sure you use best quality, farm fresh eggs (from a local grower)—those rich, golden yolks make all the difference.  Finally, make this salad while local asparagus is abundant and delicious. 

Springtime “Salade Lyonnaise” with Asparagus & Walnuts

For one person (multiply as needed):
1 1/2 to 2 oz. (1 slice thick or extra thick bacon), cut crosswise in 1/2- to 1-inch pieces
2 to 4 oz. (trimmed weight) asparagus, cut into 2- to 3-inch lengths on a short diagonal
1/4 c. (about 1 oz.) walnuts
2 handfuls (about 2 to 2 1/2 oz.) lettuce (try to include some crisper greens as well as something a bit bitter)
1 large egg, at room temperature
Vinaigrette, to taste (below)

Place the bacon in a non-stick pan set over moderate to medium-low heat.  Cook, tossing/stirring occasionally until the fat is mostly rendered and the bacon is golden.  It should be chewy, not crisp.  Transfer to paper towels to drain and set the pan aside.

While the bacon cooks, toast the walnuts in a 350° oven until fragrant and golden—about 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  When cool enough to handle, break into medium pieces.  If you like, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with salt.  Blanch the asparagus until just tender in a pot of boiling salted water (about 2 to 5 minutes).  Lift out and spread on towels to cool.

When the bacon, asparagus and walnuts are ready, poach the egg: add a tablespoon of vinegar to a quart of simmering water (in a heavy bottomed sauce pan).  Crack the egg into a ramekin and gently tip it into the water.  Don’t let the water boil or even really simmer.  If you have an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the water should be about 200°.  Let the egg stay in the water until the yolk is just beginning to thicken.  This should take about four minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the egg out of its poaching bath and give it a gentle poke with your finger. It should be softly bouncy...but not firm…I think 4 minutes is about perfect.  (If you have never poached an egg, check out my “how to”/basics post.)

While the egg is poaching, place the greens in a bowl and season with salt & pepper.  Just before the egg is done, dress everything….drizzling with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat and tossing well with your hands.  You may dress the asparagus, walnuts and bacon separately…or add them to the bowl with the lettuce and toss everything together. If you like, you may drizzle in some of the bacon fat, too.  Mound everything on a plate, leaving a little divot in the center to hold the egg. 

When the egg is done to your liking, use a slotted spoon to lift it out of the poaching liquid.  I like to give the egg a gentle blot with a paper towel, but it isn’t strictly necessary.  Place the egg on the salad, season it with salt and pepper and drizzle a bit more vinaigrette, or bacon fat (or both) over the whole salad.  Serve right away.

  • Add 3 or 4 oz. of roasted new or fingerling potatoes to the salad.
  • Since I don’t add croutons to this version of the salad, I like to serve it with buttered toast. Choose a nice, hearty, artisanal bread for your toast.

2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. sherry vinegar
3 to 4 T. minced shallot
2 t. Dijon mustard
1/2 to 3/4 t. Kosher salt
1/2 c. olive oil

Place the vinegars and shallots in a small bowl (or in the cup of an immersion blender if you would like a smooth, well-emulsified vinaigrette).  Let sit for 5 minutes or so to give the shallots a chance to soften.  Add the Dijon and a half teaspoon of kosher salt.  Whisk (or blend) until the Dijon is completely incorporated.  Add the oil in a thin stream while whisking (blending) constantly.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt.  

If you made the vinaigrette with the blender, it will remain emulsified.  If you used a whisk, it will need re-whisking prior to use.  The dressing keeps well for several days in the fridge.  If it solidifies (transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid), soften by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water.  Re-whisk before using.  

No comments: